My 2020 in Books

One of my goals for 2020, and really the only one I wholly succeeded in, was to read more than I had in 2019. I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku (and it did!).

Being a little more systematic about my reading plans certainly helped. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books (usually), which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in the order I stack them. For my first reading stack, I grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but since then I’ve added criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!).

Since I had success with my 2020 reading plan, I made a spreadsheet to track my reading more in depth, and see if there’s anything I can do to tweak it and make even more out of my 2021 reading year. I might add a new-to-me category to my tracking this year as well.

Here’s how 2020 went:

I cracked open 90 books, and finished 89 of them. I honestly thought I would’ve abandoned more books than that, but I’m still pretty stubborn about finishing what I start, book-wise. 30 of my books were rereads, and 36 were graphic novels, which inflates the number a bit, but I’m still totally counting them (especially during the trashfire that was 2020).

I read 10 books by BIPOC authors and 7 by authors I know to be LGBTQ2S+. I’d like to improve both of those numbers in 2021, but am still pretty happy that everything I read came off of my shelves and I spent most of a year hitting my to-read stack goals without having to order a new book or visit the library to make my stacks. I will likely have to prop up the home shelves with some new additions by the end of 2021 to keep this category going.

Only 29 of my books were by women, which doesn’t surprise me given the amount of old graphic novel rereads that were on the list. The ratio is a bit better when compared to my new reads for the year, but I’d hoped for closer to 50-50 parity, and will be aiming for an equal mix again in 2021.

I caught up on 8 books written by friends. Sorry it took me so long!

Only 5 non-fiction books were finished in 2020. I tend to read non-fiction much more slowly than fiction, as I often make notes to myself of things I’d like to remember, or things that give me story ideas, but I’d still hoped for more. At least this should be an easy goal to beat this year.

I read 12 roleplaying game handbooks in 2020, which means I probably read more RPGs than I played in game sessions. It was not a good year for gaming for me. What games I played were fun, but pandemic brain definitely caused me to step back from actual game sessions (and as good as Roll20 is at what it does, I vastly prefer to have my gaming take place in person).

Of the 90 books I cracked open in 2020, I liked 70 of them enough to recommend to others, and there were no real stinkers. Even the book I set down had some pretty admirable qualities, it just wasn’t for me.

Top Fiction Reads

  • Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw
  • The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
  • Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
  • The Bone Mother by David Demchuk
  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
  • Armed in Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield

Top Non-Fiction Reads:

  • Story Genius by Lisa Cron
  • The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber

Top Graphic Novel Reads:

  • Heathen Vol. 1 by Natasha Alterici
  • Criminal: Bad Weekend by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
  • Criminal: Cruel Summer by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Top RPG Reads:

  • Spectaculars by Scratchpad Publishing
  • Vaesen by Free League

Everything I read in 2020:

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Here’s what I read in July.

Here’s what I read in August.

Here’s what I read in September.

Here’s what I read in October.

Here’s what I read in November.

Here’s what I read in December.

And my first to-read stack of 2021:

The January 2021 to-read pile: Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, Mahu Surfer by Neil S. Plakcy, The Prairie Bridesmaid by Daria Salamon, and Savage Legion by Matt Wallace.

I’ve already broken my five books rule! After choosing my first five for 2021, I remembered that I’d planned to kick off the year reading Hungover, and didn’t want to bounce anything off the list.

Here’s to a great year of reading in 2021! What’s on your nightstand, friends?

The 2020 Reading List: July

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

July: 

Eberron: Five Nations by Bill Slavicsek, David Noonan, Christopher Perkins: This was a reread. One of my favourite supplements for the 3/3.5 era of D&D, even though I’ve never actually played or ran a game set in Eberron. I’ve been revisiting some of the old Eberron material, as I think the next time I run D&D 5e, I’ll be using this setting instead of my usual go-to of Mystara. I’m still really happy with this book, it has lots of system-agnostic information that can be uses regardless of which version of D&D you prefer.

Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying by Free League: Another Kickstarter prize! I knew I was going to enjoy this book. Like Forbidden Lands, it uses the Mutant Year Zero rules engine, and I’m quite fond of the system. The art is amazing and evocative, and as the person who will likely need to run the game for my group, I particularly liked how the designers spelled out how to run a mystery adventure in the context of the Mythic North. Really can’t wait to get this  one to the table!

Grim Hollow: The Campaign Guide by Ghostfire Gaming: Another Kickstarter prize! This campaign setting is for Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, and has some interesting variant rules for a more grim and gritty style of play and mechanics I haven’t seen before. I especially liked the Advanced Background System which could have interesting ramifications for a city based game and Character Transformations which allow players to become a Lich, Fiend, Lycanthrope, or other powerful creatures. I doubt I’ll actually use the world of Etharis, as I usually go with a game world I’m already familiar with, or just homebrew my own, but if I do, my order came with a sweet fabric map that I’ll enjoy laying out on the table.

City of Broken Magic by Mariah Bolender: This was my first Did Not Finish of the year. I really liked a lot of the worldbuilding, the narrator’s voice was interesting, but ultimately, the plot didn’t hold me and I gave up about half way through. I took a bit of a break when two of my Kickstarter games arrived, to jump on those, so maybe that was the cause.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

The 2020 Reading List: May

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

May:

Tiny Gunslingers by Gallant Knight Games: A minimalist western game. I’ve loved all the Tiny D6 games I’ve picked up so far, even if I haven’t played them as much as I’d like. I have a plan for this one though (Sigh. I have a plan for all of them). I especially like the shootout mechanic which uses playing cards and Blackjack rules to resolve, which feels like the iaijutsu duel mechanic from early editions of Legend of the Five Rings.

Beak, Feather, & Bone by Tyler Crumrine, Austin Breed, and Jonathan Yee: This is another Kickstarter game, a ‘zine-length competitive map labeling RPG and worldbuilding tool. I’ll probably be using it more for the later than the former, but it looks great, the rules read well, and it should be a fun way to spend an evening regardless of motive for playing. Also, loved the ravenfolk art by Austin Breed.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: I started this one back in March and was loving it up until about a quarter of the way through, and then the everything happened with the real world and wouldn’t let up. I set it down meaning to get back to it, and it took me a while to regain my focus–my issue, no fault with Jemisin’s writing, which was superb–but once I did pick it up again, it was a race to the finish. What a goddamned great book. I’ve never been to New York but The City We Became felt both true to the New York that I’ve seen dramatized and at the same time so much deeper. I hope I get to see the real place some day.

War of the Realms by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson: I loved most of Jason Aaron’s run on Marvel’s Thor comics, but this book wasn’t to my taste. Dauterman’s art is as gorgeous as it ever was. Maybe if I’d read more of the ancillary issues tie-in issues my opinion might’ve changed, but I’m never a fan of Marvel’s big crossover events, and a book needs to stand on its own.

Forbidden Lands Player’s Guide by Free League: This was a reread. I’d missed a bunch of game sessions in a friend’s ongoing campaign, and now that I’ve been back a bit more regularly, I decided to refresh myself on the rules. Found a bunch of stuff I’d forgotten. Still love this game. A great, but deadly, hex-crawler with swift and deadly combat.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.